Working Paper Series
Rich Manís War, Poor Manís Fight? Socioeconomic Representativeness in the Modern Military
() and Tino Sanandaji
Abstract: Historically, the American armed forces were
disproportionally drawn from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A transition
toward a smaller and more selective military has changed this tendency.
Since the armed forces do not gather data on recruitsí family income,
previous studies relied on geographic data to proxy for economic
background. We improve on previous literature using individual-level data
from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and study population
representativeness in the years 1997Ė2011. We find that recruits score
higher than the civilian population on cognitive skill tests, and come from
households with above average median parental income and wealth. Moreover,
both the lowest and highest parental income categories are
under-represented. Higher skill test scores increase enlistment rates from
lower- and middle-income families while decreasing them for high income
families. The over-representation of minorities in the military has
declined in recent decades. Non-Hispanic White casualties are now
over-represented in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Keywords: Military service; Occupational choice; Human capital; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: H41; J18; J24; (follow links to similar papers)
41 pages, May 27, 2013, Revised December 16, 2014
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